Who Really Uses Cleanrooms?

Who Really Uses Cleanrooms?

Cleanrooms sound like something out of a science fiction movie. A bright white room where employees wear scrubs, booties, and hair nets? Seems a bit like Westworld. Though they may seem like odd, sterile environments, cleanrooms are absolutely essential to the future of technology and industry. Their high-tech capabilities make it possible to create an environment that’s as free from contaminants and air particulate as possible.

If you have a cleanroom, or are interested in installing one for your application, you probably already know what a cleanroom is, but what you might not know is just how common they are. In a way, they’re the unsung heroes behind technological advancement. Most people don’t know that cleanrooms are actually very widely used in a variety of applications. In fact, you probably have more than a few things in your home or even on your person that were made with the help of a cleanroom. Basically anything you can think of that requires precise manufacturing requires a cleanroom. In fact, some of the most common cleanroom applications might surprise:

Optics

Every photographer is looking to find the clearest lens on the market. From the consumer’s side, it’s just a matter of choosing a camera that’s well-reviewed and offers high resolution. But someone does have to make those crystal clear lenses that go inside of the camera. To make lenses and other optics pieces like smartphone cameras, a cleanroom is absolutely necessary. Cleanrooms ensure no particles are floating around in the manufacturing space that could dirty the lenses, and they control both temperature and humidity to create the perfect environment necessary for precise creation of optic parts.

Nanotechnology and electronics

The chips and nanochips that go into all of those technological devices we love so much, like our computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, are insanely small. These small pieces, however, hold and store tons and tons of data, and have to be 100% accurate for the rest of the machine to work properly. That’s where cleanrooms come in. The smallest speck of dust on the wrong part of a nanochip can render a computer ineffective, so it’s important that they be manufactured within a strictly monitored cleanroom. As nanotechnology continues to expand, cleanrooms have also become useful in recent green energy initiatives. Cleanrooms are now being set up to house nanotech solar cell production, a more cost-effective way to create widespread solar energy.

Research facilities

Whether they’re on a college campus or at a pharmaceutical company, research facilities are one of the most important ways to create innovation in science and medicine these days. Cleanrooms function as a controlled environment that allow scientists within research facilities to run multiple experiments and tests while being absolutely sure that outside variables are the same. Cleanrooms take out all of the guesswork that exists in uncontrolled environments and offer scientists the most accurate results possible. Without cleanrooms, scientists would have to complete experiments far more times, which lengthens the research process and slows innovation.

Aerospace

The aerospace industry is another realm you might not guess uses cleanrooms. Typically, when one thinks of aerospace engineering, the construction of a giant plane is what comes to mind. But actually, many of the tiny parts that planes need to fly, as well as very advanced spaceflight lasers, require absolute accuracy in production. Cleanrooms are the only way manufacturers can achieve this level of accuracy. The pieces that go together to form lasers that can vaporize space debris or charge the batteries of aerial vehicles are very tiny and can be rendered completely ineffective with just a little bit of contamination, making cleanrooms necessary.

Military applications

The government is often at the forefront of technology, most typically in the military realm. Whether they’re developing new instruments to protect soldiers, or they’re working on more efficient ways to generate energy, much of the testing and research that goes into the development process must take place in a cleanroom for many of the same reasons as other industries: cleanrooms provide a completely controlled environment that does not change and is as free of particulate and contamination as possible.

As you can tell, cleanrooms are an integral part of future technology. Without cleanrooms, we wouldn’t have a variety of medications, we would be without accurate lab testing, and we wouldn’t be able to create some of the common technology we use every day. Cleanrooms provide the perfect environment to foster innovation, and they function to advance technology and create more perfect products.

If you’re looking to install a new cleanroom, or you think your existing cleanroom could use an update, get in touch with the experts at Angstrom Technology. We’ve been in charge of building and designing cleanrooms across the nation for years and would be glad to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to give our office a call at 888-768-6900, or contact us online at your convenience.

Cleanroom Cleaning and Sterilization Tips

Cleanroom Cleaning and Sterilization Tips

Cleaning a cleanroom seems a bit counterproductive, doesn’t it? By name, a cleanroom is already supposed to be clean, so what would the point of actually sterilizing it be? Unfortunately, no cleanroom, regardless of its ISO standard, is 100% effective. By having people move about in the cleanroom, particles are bound to fall and contaminate your cleanroom from time to time. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you and your employees are regularly cleaning your cleanroom. If you’re new to cleanrooms, there are a few methods you can use, as well as a few precautions to keep in mind. We’ll start with standard cleanroom sterilization methods:

Sterilization

Dry Cleaning

For regular, routine cleaning, dry cleaning – or dry transfer – is the most common method of sterilization. This type of cleaning refers to the polishing or wiping of a surface with an absorbent or collective cloth. There are a variety of cleanroom-approved materials well-suited to this sort of sterilization, but the one you choose will depend on your cleanroom’s class. At the very least, you’ll want to ensure that whatever wipes you choose for routine dry transfer cleanings are lint-free. This will decrease the amount of lint and particles left behind from the dry transfer cleanroom sterilization. Dry transfer is commonly used on a daily basis to remove the minimal amount of particulate buildup that occurs in a short period of time.

Wet Cleaning

Wet cleaning, the process of cleaning with an approved solution or cleaning fluid, is necessary when a standard dry transfer cannot remove the particulate that’s accumulated over a period of time – generally once a week. There are a variety of cleaning solutions suited to removing cleanroom particulate, but the one you choose for your cleanroom will depend on the surfaces you’re cleaning as well as the class rating of your cleanroom. It’s important to note that you’ll want to choose a product that’s approved by the EPA and is suitable for use in a cleanroom. EPA-approved products are often safer for your employees, as they emit less toxic fumes.

Instating Your Cleaning Process

Before you begin assigning employees to sterilize your cleanroom, you’ll first need to take a few initial organizational steps:

Standard Operating Procedure

You’ll need a clear, outlined procedure for each type of cleanroom sterilization process you plan on implementing: daily, weekly, and monthly. This procedure will ensure that every employee knows exactly what they’re responsible for at each cleaning. Your SOPs should include proper dilution techniques for any cleaning solutions used and should give an outline of which order employees should clean surfaces and appliances.

Training Employees

After creating the necessary SOPs, it’s time to train the employees who will be responsible for sterilizing the cleanroom. It’s a good idea to have a few designated employees who will always handle the cleaning. This ensures that the process is completed consistently each time. Employees should know exactly what to do from the point of entering the cleanroom with sterilized cleaning products and equipment to discarding of any waste after the cleaning is complete. By training and regularly observing the employees responsible for sterilization, you’ll be better able to ensure that your cleanroom is always cleaned properly.

Additional Cleanroom Sterilization Tips

Clean From Top to Bottom

No matter what sterilization process you’re using, it’s important that employees always clean from top to bottom. In a thorough monthly cleaning, this means that employees should start with the ceiling, move to walls, and then tackle surfaces like tables and chairs, saving the floor for the absolute last. In cleaning the area from least contaminated sections to the dirtiest, you will ensure that minimal particulate is left behind.

Sticky Flooring

Many cleanrooms utilize sticky flooring to minimize the amount of particulate released into the cleanroom via shoes and dirt that collects on the floor. This is a great way to keep your cleanroom as sterile as possible, but it will require a different cleaning procedure. Ensure that your Standard Operating Procedure includes proper manufacturer instructions on the cleaning process for this sticky flooring.

Preparation of Cleaning Materials

It is paramount that employees follow proper preparation procedure for cleaning materials. In many cases, cleaning solutions must be diluted with water before they can be safely used on cleanroom surfaces. Improper dilution can result in 1) ineffective cleaning processes if there is too much dilution, and 2) the erosion and damage of cleanroom surfaces if solutions are not fully diluted. Most cleanroom sterilization products are caustic and require an adequate amount of dilution to ensure that they are removing only the particles that contaminate your cleanroom, and not corroding cleanroom surfaces. You’ll also want to double check that the cleaning materials you choose are suited to the surfaces within your cleanroom.

Beware of Fumes

Cleaning materials can cause a buildup of fumes, which contaminates your cleanroom and can be harmful to employees. To avoid fume buildup, ensure that fans and filter units are always left on during the cleanroom sterilization process.

Disinfect Cleaning Equipment

To protect from bringing in additional contaminants, it’s important to disinfect all cleaning equipment before it enters the cleanroom. This includes replacing old or disintegrating mop brushes and using new, uncontaminated cloths and wipes.

Follow Proper Gowning Procedure

In sterilizing the cleanroom, staff must follow standard gowning procedure. They should also treat cleaning as they would any other normal cleanroom operation. This means slow, controlled movements that limit the introduction or disturbance of contaminants.

With these basic sterilization tips, you can ensure that your cleanroom is always performing at its best by protecting your procedures, and reducing any possible contaminants in the area. Make sure you’re following a regular cleaning schedule, and keep your employees up to date if you ever make changes or adjust your cleaning SOPs. And if you have any other questions about sterilizing your cleanroom, give the experts at Angstrom a call. We’re always happy to help! Contact our office by phone at 888-768-6900, or request a quote online today.


Cleanroom Air Showers: Everything You Need to Know

Cleanroom Air Showers: Everything You Need to Know

An air shower is designed to function as a sort of gateway controller between your cleanroom and the rest of the world. When used properly, an air shower can cut down on a vast majority of potential contaminants and helps ensure that your product remains safe and uncontaminated. Today, air showers have become relatively commonplace because of their benefits, and comparatively small price. So what’s the deal with cleanroom air showers, and why does your cleanroom need one?

How Does a Cleanroom Air Shower Work?

Well, first let’s start with how a cleanroom air shower works. Essentially, it functions as a high velocity, low pressure, self-contained system. To clarify terms, the air shower is the actual high-velocity airflow fan that turns on once the employee is in the room, and the room itself, with dual locking doors, is called the air lock. For the sake of brevity, we will refer to the system as a whole as an air shower.

In a one-person air shower, the airlock has two doors that cannot be opened at the same time. The employee enters the room from the outside, the doors lock, and then the air shower begins blowing air in what we call a “flapping manner,” or high-velocity streams. These streams of air effectively “scrub” the employee of any lingering particulate, blowing them to the low-pressure side of the room. Typically, an employee will be cleaned for 4 to 8 seconds, and then will wait for an additional 2-4 seconds for the room to be purged of the contaminants. The second door, leading to the actual cleanroom, will then be unlocked, allowing the employee contaminant free entry into the production area.

Most smaller cleanrooms equipped with an air shower simply implement a one-person air shower, but cleanroom air showers do exist for many employees at once. These larger air showers are built kind of like tunnels and are beneficial for operations that have a shift change of 30-40 employees at a time.

Why Do You Need a Cleanroom Air Shower?

Well, if you think about it, why wouldn’t you? A cleanroom air shower provides your product and your employees with an extra layer of protection from any harmful contaminants or particles that could make their way into your cleanroom. One instance of too much particulate can result in a ruined batch of pharmaceuticals or a malfunctioning piece of electrical equipment. An air shower functions to prevent these major issues from happening. They’re also a helpful reminder to employees about the importance of remaining particulate-free. And on the off chance that an employee wasn’t as careful as they should have been when donning a gown, an air shower will help ensure that any extra particulate is scrubbed off before they enter a contaminant-free space.

Is a Cleanroom Air Shower Worth the Cost?

It always comes down to the bottom line. Clearly, air showers are effective, but are they worth the additional cost? Well, believe it or not, an air shower actually adds up to just a tiny percentage of an overall cleanroom installation fee. Compared to the rest of the cleanroom that you’re paying for, the cost of a cleanroom air shower is simply minuscule. Add that to the fact that if an air shower prevents even one contamination of a pharmaceutical batch, you’re saving way more than the air shower even cost you, making its price a very small concern. If you’re in the following applications, an air shower can save you big bucks in mistakes and contaminated product:

  • Biotech
  • Biomedical
  • Parental drug
  • Microelectronics
  • Precision manufacturing
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Aerospace
  • Nanotechnology

In addition to the money an air shower saves you in product consistency, cleanroom air showers have also proven to increase cleanroom efficiency, and lower the amount of particulate buildup within the cleanroom itself. Since the air shower is ensuring that as much particulate as possible is eliminated before anyone enters the cleanroom, less particulate buildup occurs over time. This means that a cleanroom with an air shower will require less maintenance than a cleanroom without. It also means that a cleanroom with an air shower will put less stress on HEPA filters–making them more efficient–since they won’t have to work as hard with additional particulate and contaminants.

No matter the cleanroom application, an air shower is guaranteed to decrease particulate and the presence of contaminants. And when it costs just a fraction of the price of your cleanroom itself, it’s a practical addition to your project. If you have more questions about cleanrooms, or if you’re considering adding an air shower to your new or existing cleanroom project, make sure to give the experts at Angstrom a call! We’d love to answer any questions or help you design a cleanroom that’s perfect for your application, your space, and your budget. Call our office at 888-768-6900 or submit a free request for a cleanroom quote online today!

And if you’re looking for more information on cleanroom design, or you’re hoping to get started on your new cleanroom construction project, make sure to check out our Cleanroom Project Design Guide below!

Updating Your Cleanroom the Right Way

Updating Your Cleanroom the Right Way

Updating your cleanroom can be daunting. After all, there are so many factors that need to be considered when it comes to any change to the cleanroom environment. You have to consider the specification you need to meet, cost, durability, and maintenance requirements of additions or replacements. But investing in some smart upgrades can really improve the cleanliness, ease of maintenance, efficiency, and ergonomics of your cleanroom space.

LED Lights

LED lighting is a no-brainer when it comes to upgrading your cleanroom. When compared with fluorescent lighting it’s easy to see why: LED lights are very efficient, emit little heat, and require little maintenance, whereas fluorescent lights are fragile and need replacing often. LEDs have the longest lifespan of any commercially available light source, which makes them worth investing in.

LED lighting also beats fluorescent lighting in system efficiency (greater than 50 lumens/watt for LEDs, less than 30 lumens/watt for fluorescents). This is because fluorescent lighting is omnidirectional, emitting light for 360°. Fixture housings are required to redirect fluorescent light to the desired area. LEDs emit light for only 180°, which makes it easy to target light over the desired area–more light actually reaches it.

Panel Repair

If your cleanroom wall panels are damaged, it can be costly to replace them. If the damage isn’t too extensive, it’s possible that panels can be repaired instead of replaced. Repairing damaged panels will improve the aesthetic of your space, but most importantly, it will help maintain the integrity of the cleanroom. Damaged panels could give off particulate matter or allow contaminants to breach the cleanroom.

Vinyl Walls and Ceilings

Vinyl is a smart upgrade for two reasons: cleaning and surface resistance. Vinyl is easy to clean and allows complete removal of particles, in addition to its low particulate emission. Vinyl can also have dissipative or conductive levels of static resistance, making it ESD safe, if that’s something your cleanroom requires.

New Flooring

Due to a variety of factors (gravity, for example), floors are often the dirtiest part of a cleanroom. Just like walls and ceilings, vinyl is also a good flooring choice for the same reasons: chemical resistance, static dissipative or conductive resistance, low particulate emission, and easy cleaning. There are also a variety of other flooring types such as rubber, epoxy coating, urethane, etc., with different characteristics to meet specific purposes. Cleanrooms with heavy vehicle and wear traffic may benefit from ultra-durable rubber flooring, whereas cleanrooms with the need for chemical and stain resistance might require urethane.

There are many ways to spend money while updating your cleanroom, but smart upgrades can help you make the most of your renovations, and your cleanroom. If you’re looking to upgrade your modular cleanroom, be sure to call Angstrom Technology at 888-768-6900 or request a quote online today!

How Much Space Does Your Cleanroom Need?

How Much Space Does Your Cleanroom Need?

One of the most difficult considerations when designing a cleanroom is determining how big or small it needs to be. The goal is to create a cleanroom that is big enough to house operations, but only just. If your cleanroom is considerably larger than you actually need it to be, then you end up wasting a lot of money by keeping that extra space clean as well. If your cleanroom is too small, you won’t reach required production levels and you may not have enough space for all of your machinery. So, how do you decide what your dimensions should be? Here are a few things to take into account:

Clearance

Sure, maybe you have a warehouse with a ton of empty space, but that doesn’t mean you should use all of it for the cleanroom proper. You need to make space allowances for both big HEPA, ULPA, and pre-filters, and you have to consider the installation of the cleanroom itself. Regarding the ceiling, you’ll need at the absolute minimum 6 inches of clearance. Less than that, and you risk starving your filters for air, defeating the purpose of the cleanroom in the first place. We recommend you leave about three feet, if you have the room, to allow for hassle-free changing of your filters. They’re not small, and it will make the job much easier if your employee has a little room to move up there.

When it comes to the walls, we understand that most people like to build against existing walls to conserve space. While this is fine if you absolutely need the space, the installation, and any future maintenance, will be considerably easier if you leave a three-foot perimeter around your cleanroom. This gives you more room to work with, and it makes any future expansions, updates, and even the initial installation go a lot faster.

As a final point on clearance, if you do have a ton of space, it’s important to remember that your cleanroom doesn’t need to take up the entire room. In order to be cost-effective, your cleanroom should be the right size for your operations, and no larger. The more dead space, the more money you pay for no reason.

Machinery

Another key consideration is to estimate exactly how much space any machinery or appliances will take up. If you already have the machinery, we suggest placing it on the floor of your existing area to get an idea of how much space the machines alone will take up, and how far apart they’ll need to be to provide employees safe and convenient access. Any kind of machinery is going to be your biggest factor in determining cleanroom size.

Workers

Once you figure out how much space your machines need, you’ll next have to decide how many workers your operation will require, and how much space they will need to function efficiently within the cleanroom. This should include any workspace required within the cleanroom. If they need to use a table, desk, computer, or chairs, these should all be taken into account when you’re thinking about your cleanroom size. Your employees should have enough room to access the machinery, and comfortably walk from point A to point B, without running into, or interrupting, other workers.

Heat

The final consideration regarding cleanroom space has to do with temperature. While the majority of cleanrooms are modular, any type of cleanroom structure you create will trap heat. This means that if you have a lot of machinery running within the cleanroom or a lot of employees, you may have to factor in a greater amount of space to keep the cleanroom from overheating. Since you can’t – like other rooms – just open a window or door, there has to be enough space built into the design to allow your air conditioner to keep the room at a stable temperature. This is imperative to the function of the cleanroom itself, as well as the productivity of your employees.

It’s also important to note that if you opt for a modular cleanroom, you can always expand along with your production. Modular cleanrooms are highly adjustable, which means you can add on to your existing cleanroom whenever you need the extra space, and if production slows for any reason, it’s relatively simple to bring your cleanroom in a bit. For optimal flexibility, we always advise those in search of a cleanroom to go for a modular option. This way, even if the cleanroom ends up the wrong size, it can easily and affordably be re-fitted for your current business operations.

We hope this helps you determine what size cleanroom you need! If you have any more questions regarding cleanrooms, from installations to maintenance, Angstrom Technology is happy to help. We’ve been in the industry for decades, so we’re confident that we can address any issue you’re having quickly and effectively. Whether you’re interested in a cleanroom, or you just have a few questions, make sure to get in touch. You can call our office at 888-768-6900, or contact us online today!

Teaching Employees Proper Cleanroom Gowning Techniques

Teaching Employees Proper Cleanroom Gowning Techniques

If you have a cleanroom, you probably already know that humans are the biggest source of cleanroom contamination. The fact is that you do need people in the cleanroom to be able to manufacture your product. This means that your employees have to be gowned properly in order to reduce the amount of particles that are released into the air inside your cleanroom. The difficult part is deciding how they should gown, and ensuring that all employees are properly gowned, at all times.

Depending on what type of cleanroom you have, your employee requirements for gowning will be different. In some cases, they may just have to put on a lab coat and goggles, where in others they’ll need a full bunny suit. Generally, these requirement correspond with the level of cleanliness your cleanroom has to meet. The higher the standards, the more gear your employees will have to wear.

Once you know what your employees are required to wear, you can easily design a protocol for them to follow. It’s a good idea to keep a mirror in the gowning station, so employees can make sure garments are properly tucked in. You may also post a picture of someone properly gowned, as a “how to” reference for employees.

Here is a general list of things to consider when teaching employees proper gowning technique, to help you establish a simple, step by step process that your employees can follow every time they enter the cleanroom:

Remember that proper cleanroom attire starts outside the gowning room: Employees should be discouraged from wearing makeup, jewelry, hairsprays or perfumes, as these can all give off unnecessary particles and fumes, endangering the balanced state of your cleanroom.

Consider footwear: It may be a good idea for employees to have shoes dedicated only to the cleanroom, in the interest of minimizing contamination. If employees change shoes before even entering the gowning room, you’re minimizing the amount of dirt and dust particles tracked into the cleanroom.

No food: While this may seem like a no-brainer, make sure you’re reminding employees never to eat in the cleanroom. It may seem like a hassle for them to leave for lunch, and then redo the entire gowning process, but it’s a greater concern to have any kind of food or gum in the cleanroom. It’s a good idea to put up a sign outside the door to remind anyone entering the cleanroom of this rule.

Top to bottom gowning: When you’re developing your gowning protocol, it’s important to know that gowning should be done from top to bottom. That means that employees should start with hoods, then move to tops, then pants, then shoe covers. This method of dressing prevents any particles from falling down to already-gowned pants or booties.

Don’t touch: Employees should be aware that most cleanliness violations happen as a result of a garment being touched by dirty hands, or the floor. You should stress the importance of regularly washing and drying hands and gloves, as well as ensuring that garments do not touch the floor. A good way to minimize these issues is to make sure that surfaces are ultra-clean, and that no-touch washers and dryers are readily available.

Minimize motion: Believe it or not, people emit thousands of particles a minute even when they’re dressed in cleanroom gowning gear, and sitting still. As soon as people begin to move, that number of particles increases exponentially. This is why both your gowning room and your cleanroom itself, should be set up to minimize movement as much as possible.

With these considerations in mind, it shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with a thorough, step-by-step gowning procedure for your employees. Once you design the protocol, it’s important to make sure you train, and retrain it. Your personnel should attend a formal training program, but don’t stop there. Post reminder posters outside the gowning room, and make sure that your employees understand how important the gowning process is to maintaining the standards of your cleanroom. The best way to keep your cleanroom clean is to have a unified program for gowning procedure that everyone follows.

If you’re in need of gowning supplies, or if you’re looking for more information on cleanrooms, give the experts at Angstrom a call! We’ve been in the business for more than 20 years, and design, repair, and supply every kind of cleanroom. At 888-768-6900 we’re here to help answer any cleanroom question.